Are you considering a career as a paralegal but unsure of the educational requirements?
If you’re wondering how long paralegal school is, you’re in the right place.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: paralegal school can take anywhere from a few months to four years, depending on the program.
In this article, we’ll explore the different types of paralegal programs, their duration, and what to expect from each one.
Certificate programs are a popular option for those looking to become paralegals. These programs are designed to provide students with the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to work as a paralegal. They are generally shorter than associate or bachelor’s degree programs, which makes them a great option for those who want to enter the workforce quickly.
The length of certificate programs can vary, but they typically take anywhere from six months to a year to complete. Some programs may be offered online, which can make it easier for working professionals to complete the program on their own schedule. It’s important to note that the duration of a program may also depend on the number of courses required and the pace at which the student completes them.
The curriculum for certificate programs typically covers the basics of legal terminology, research, and writing. Students may also learn about specific areas of law, such as criminal law, family law, or corporate law. In addition to classroom instruction, students may have the opportunity to participate in internships or other hands-on experiences to gain practical skills.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 558 paralegal and legal assistant certificate programs offered in the United States in 2019.
If you’re interested in pursuing a certificate program, it’s important to do your research and find a program that is accredited by a recognized organization. The American Bar Association (ABA) is one such organization that provides accreditation for paralegal programs. Accreditation can ensure that the program meets certain standards and that the education you receive will be recognized by employers.
Associate Degree Programs
Associate degree programs in paralegal studies are typically offered by community colleges, technical schools, and some universities. These programs are designed to provide students with a solid foundation in legal principles, concepts, and procedures, as well as the skills necessary to perform paralegal duties in a variety of settings.
Associate degree programs in paralegal studies typically take two years to complete on a full-time basis. However, some programs may offer part-time or online options that can extend the time needed to complete the program.
The curriculum of associate degree programs in paralegal studies usually includes courses in legal research, legal writing, civil litigation, criminal law, and ethics. Students may also take classes in areas such as real estate law, family law, and bankruptcy law. In addition to classroom instruction, students may be required to complete internships or externships to gain practical experience in a legal setting.
Here is a comparison of some popular associate degree programs in paralegal studies:
|Community College of Denver||Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal||2 years||$8,045 (in-state), $20,649 (out-of-state)|
|University of California, Los Angeles||Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies||2 years||$11,442 (in-state), $42,994 (out-of-state)|
|Florida State College at Jacksonville||Associate in Science in Paralegal Studies||2 years||$6,506 (in-state), $23,237 (out-of-state)|
It is important to research and compare programs before selecting one. Accreditation, job placement rates, and cost are all important factors to consider. The American Bar Association’s website (www.americanbar.org) provides a list of ABA-approved paralegal programs.
Bachelor’s Degree Programs
If you are interested in pursuing a career as a paralegal, earning a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies is an excellent way to start. A bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies will provide you with a comprehensive education in legal theory, research, writing, and analysis. This degree program is designed to prepare you for a wide range of paralegal careers in law firms, corporations, government agencies, and other legal settings.
A bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies typically takes four years to complete, although some programs may take longer or shorter. The exact duration of the program will depend on a variety of factors, including the school you attend, the number of credits required for graduation, and whether you attend full-time or part-time.
The curriculum of a bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies typically includes a wide range of courses in legal theory and practice, as well as general education requirements. Some of the courses you can expect to take in a bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies include:
- Legal Research and Writing
- Civil Litigation
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Real Estate Law
- Business Law
- Intellectual Property Law
In addition to these courses, you may also be required to complete an internship or practicum in a legal setting to gain practical experience and build your professional network.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of tuition and fees for a four-year bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies was $31,800 for the 2018-2019 academic year. However, this cost can vary widely depending on the school you attend and whether you qualify for financial aid or scholarships.
Master’s Degree Programs
Master’s degree programs in paralegal studies are designed for individuals who have already completed a bachelor’s degree in any field and want to gain specialized knowledge in the legal field. These programs provide students with an in-depth understanding of the legal system and the role of paralegals in law firms and legal departments.
The duration of master’s degree programs in paralegal studies varies depending on the institution and program. Generally, these programs take between 18 and 24 months to complete on a full-time basis. Part-time options are also available, which may take longer to complete. Some institutions offer accelerated programs that can be completed in as little as 12 months.
The curriculum of master’s degree programs in paralegal studies covers a range of legal topics, including legal research and writing, contracts, torts, litigation, and alternative dispute resolution. Additionally, students may have the opportunity to specialize in a specific area of law, such as intellectual property, corporate law, or healthcare law.
Courses may include:
- Legal Research and Writing
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Intellectual Property Law
- Corporate Law
- Healthcare Law
Students may also be required to complete a capstone project or thesis prior to graduation. This project allows students to apply their knowledge and skills to a real-world legal problem.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals and legal assistants earn a median annual salary of $52,920. The job outlook for this field is also promising, with a projected job growth rate of 10% from 2019 to 2029.
If you’re interested in pursuing a master’s degree in paralegal studies, some top-ranked programs can be found at U.S. News & World Report. Keep in mind that the cost of these programs can vary greatly, so be sure to research and compare options before making a decision.
Other Factors to Consider
Online vs. On-Campus Programs
When deciding on a paralegal program, you’ll need to determine if an online or on-campus program is best for you. Online programs allow for greater flexibility, as you can complete coursework from anywhere with an internet connection. However, on-campus programs provide more opportunities for networking and hands-on learning experiences.
It’s important to note that not all online programs are created equal. Make sure the program you choose is accredited and offers the same level of education as an on-campus program. The American Bar Association (ABA) provides a list of approved paralegal programs on their website, which can help you narrow down your options.
If you’re looking to enter the workforce quickly, an accelerated paralegal program may be the right choice for you. These programs typically take less time to complete than traditional programs, but may require a heavier course load or shorter breaks between terms.
While an accelerated program can save you time and money, it’s important to consider the potential drawbacks. You may have less time to absorb the material, and the workload can be intense. Additionally, some employers may prefer candidates who have completed a traditional program.
Internships and Work Experience
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a paralegal program is the opportunity for internships or work experience. These experiences can provide you with hands-on training and help you build a professional network.
Look for programs that offer internships or externships as part of the curriculum. You can also seek out volunteer opportunities or part-time work in a law firm to gain experience while you’re still in school. This can help you stand out to potential employers and give you a head start in your career.
Paralegal school can vary in length from a few months to four years, depending on the program and degree level.
Certificate programs are the shortest and most focused, while associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs offer a more comprehensive education.
When choosing a paralegal program, consider factors like online vs. on-campus options, accelerated programs, and opportunities for internships and work experience.
With this guide, you should have a better understanding of what to expect from paralegal school and be better equipped to make an informed decision about your education and career.